Telecommunications were well established before the Bosnian war erupted in the early 1990s. The infrastructure included the telephone and telegraph network, as well as a network for transfer of data. The total capacity of Bosnia and Herzegovina telephone exchange facilities was 744,000 telephone lines. The war caused huge material damages to telecommunications facilities. In addition, the administrative division of the country into two entities created a division in the telecommunications sector. Post-war reconstruction of the telecommunications network is aided by an internationally sponsored program under the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
The Communications Regulatory Agency (CRA) is charged with regulating the country's radio and television media.
During the Bosnian war, most media became propaganda tools of the authorities, armies, and factions. Since then, efforts have been made - with limited success - to develop media which bridge ethnic boundaries.
TV is the chief news source. The most influential broadcasters are the public radio and TV stations operated by the Bosniak-Croat and Serb entities. The Office of the High Representative (OHR), the leading international civilian agency in Bosnia, oversaw the development of national public broadcasting. The OHR worked to create a non-nationalist, civic media.
The Telecommunications sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina is undergoing liberalisation. Up to 2006, there were three licensed fixed telecommunication operators: BH Telecom, based in Sarajevo, covering 51% of the population of BiH and most of the territory of the Federation of BiH; Telekom Srpske, based in Banja Luka, covering 34% of the population of BiH, mainly in the territory of Republica Srpska; and HT Mostar, covering 16% of the population of BiH, mainly in the Federation of BiH. The three companies enjoyed a de facto monopoly over their operating areas, although they have nationwide licenses for domestic and international calls.:180 New players have entered the marked since the start of its liberalisation in 2007. The numbers of fixed telephony service subscribers were 849,027 in 2001 and 1,022,475 in 2007. Fixed telephony penetration rates increased from 22.35% (2001) to 26.41% (2007).:189–190
The mobile telephony sector is highly competitive, as the three main telephone operators compete nationwide with the brands BH Mobile, M-Tel and HT Eronet.:182 Mobile networks cover 99% of the population and have a 63.29% penetration rate, with 2,450,425 subscribers in 2007, doubling from 2004.:192
The TLC operators are still mainly state-owned and there is strong resistance to privatisation, with 90% of BH Telecom and 50.1% of HT Mostar owned by the Federation of BiH. In Republika Srpska, Telekom Srpska was privatised and is now mainly (65%) owned by Telekom Srbija:186
The telecommunications market is regulated by the Communications Regulatory Agency, which also regulates broadcasting and Internet sectors.
The Press Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the organization responsible for self-regulation of online and print media content. In 2012 the Press Council considered 176 complaints alleging inaccurate or libelous reporting by print and online media (103 for print and 73 for online media), accepting 35 as valid and rejecting 19 as unfounded.
The law provides for freedom of speech and press; however, the government does not always respect press freedom in practice. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina law prohibits hate speech. The Republika Srpska law does not specifically proscribe hate speech, although the law prohibits causing ethnic, racial, or religious hatred. Independent analysts note a continuing tendency of politicians and other leaders to label unwanted criticism as hate speech.
The law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, and the government generally respects these prohibitions in practice.
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